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The Anatomy of Faith

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
May 22, 2023 9:00 am

The Anatomy of Faith

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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May 22, 2023 9:00 am

One of the most common questions about Christianity is, “How did people in the Old Testament get to heaven?” In today’s teaching, Pastor J.D. teaches us not only when and how Abram — the “father of our faith” — was saved, but also how our faith is the same as Abraham’s. Through his story, we see that the Christian life is started and sustained by faith that God will keep his promises and that he fulfilled his most important one in Jesus.


Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. Our sins, which also deserve death, they were also charged to Jesus so that Jesus's life and resurrection could be credited to us. So how was Abraham saved? He was saved by trusting God would keep his promise to bring salvation to the world the same way that you and I experience salvation, and that is by trusting that God has brought salvation to the world. Welcome back to another week of practical, biblical teaching here on Summit Life with Pastor J.D.

Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. You know, a common question we hear around here about salvation is, how did people in the Old Testament get to heaven? I mean, Jesus wasn't even born yet. Well, today, Pastor J.D. looks at the story of Abraham, the father of our faith, and shows us not just how Abraham was saved, but also how our faith is actually the same as Abraham's. Are you confused yet? Well, stick around with us because today we are learning that the Christian life is started and sustained by faith that believes God will keep his promises and that he fulfilled his most important promise in Jesus.

So turn your Bible to Romans chapter four as we join Pastor J.D. for this teaching that he titled Anatomy of Faith. How many of you loved high school biology class?

Why don't you put your hand up for a minute? I think it was a rite of passage for me in either middle school biology or maybe high school bi- I can't remember which one it was, but that first time that you got to do a frog dissection. Do you remember that day?

I feel like that was a game changing moment because I feel like so many things in the world look different to me after that moment because prior to that, it had just been this frog hopping around and now it's like this complex organism with all these inner working parts. I was telling this to one of our pastors raised more in the country, said, we got to do a cat. So I was like, I don't know what's going on there, but he was able to confirm to me that the cat has no soul, no heart, nothing in there, but pure evil.

Okay. So he was able to check that out. Well, I share that. I share that because Romans four is Paul's, the apostle Paul's dissection of faith. Paul's going to lay it out on the table and he's going to show you all at all the different parts of it look like. You see throughout the whole book of Romans, you probably have noticed that faith plays this crucial role in salvation. And so Paul has said things like Romans 1 16, what I told you was the key verse and the whole book, the gospel is the power of God to everybody that believes. That word believe is the same word in Greek for faith. Faith is the means by which the power of God comes into us. Or chapter three, verse 22, when Paul said the righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, to all who show faith. So the question is, what is faith exactly, right?

What is faith? If you ask different kinds of Christians, you're likely to get three different answers. For example, if you ask a Roman Catholic, if you were to ask a professor at Duke Divinity School, and you were to ask Billy Graham, what is the faith that Paul is referring to when he says the righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ, you're very likely to get three different answers from those three different people. Well, thankfully the Apostle Paul tells us exactly what he means by faith. And he does that in Romans 4. Romans 4 is the Apostle Paul's analysis of what the faith that saves us really is.

He's going to lay it out on the table, so to speak, and he's going to dissect it for you. Honestly, y'all, this might be my favorite chapter, not just in Romans. It might be, I think it is my favorite chapter in the entire Bible. And that is for very personal reasons to me, because it was through a in-depth study of this chapter when I was a freshman in college that I finally understood how I could know for sure that I was going to go to heaven when I died. Some of you have heard me, if you've been around here, you've probably heard me talk about the struggle, long struggle I had with assurance of salvation. For years, I doubted my salvation. I knew, I knew that you were saved by faith. I'd known that since I was a kid.

I'd been taught that. But what exactly was that faith and what did it look like? Was it a prayer that you prayed? And if so, had I prayed the prayer right? Was it feelings of repentance? If so, how strong did those feelings of repentance need to be? Had I been sorry enough for my sin? Was it commitment to Jesus? Well, if it was commitment to Jesus, how committed did you have to be to be regarded as having enough commitment to be accepted by God? The end result I've told you is that I prayed the sinner's prayer over and over and over.

I told you that if there's a Guinness Book of World Records for how many times a single human being can pray the sinner's prayer, there is no question in my mind that I would hold that record. Every time my church gave an invitation, I got saved during that window. I mean, I single-handedly fulfilled our church's conversion goal by myself. They're like, we had 300 professions of faith last year.

Yeah, but 240 of them were JD. I've been saved in youth camps all over the nation. And then I would follow that with baptism because you want to make sure that you're baptized after you're saved. And so I got baptized. I mean, it was like, I could just feel the pastor every time he stood up and gave an invitation for baptism. He'd be like, anybody else except for JD wants to get baptized today. I had my own locker in the baptismal changing area. That part's a joke.

But the point is I did it a lot. I went through this a lot because I just wanted to know, like, how do you know for sure that you have the faith that saves and what is saving faith and how can you know that you have it? Well, that's the question Paul is going to answer in Romans 4. And he's going to try to answer that by looking at the life of one of the most important figures that we have in the Bible and that is Abraham. Paul's choice of Abraham to demonstrate what saving faith looks like is intentional because Jewish people considered Abraham to be the father of their faith, right? I mean, we still think that today, right? I mean, you know the song, right?

We're feeling the bang. Father Abraham. Hey, see, many sons had. That's right. I'm one of them.

So are you. So let's all praise the Lord. It's like we did yoga and calisthenics and worship all together at once. So Paul is going to demonstrate that Abraham, Father Abraham was justified by faith. And the idea here is if Abraham, who is the father of our faith, the father specifically of the Jewish faith, that he was justified by faith, well, you should expect that you will be justified also. Remember, part of Paul's audience here are Jewish people who are struggling with what Paul is teaching about the gospel and they feel like he's teaching something new. So Paul is trying to say, Nope, Father Abraham believed this as well. By the way, a lot of times I get asked the question, they're like, Pastor, how did people in the Old Testament get to heaven? They're like, I don't see any altar calls. I don't see any sinner's prayer. I don't see people asking Jesus into the heart or getting baptized. If you've ever asked that question, how did people in the Old Testament get saved? Romans four is your answer. Paul is going to frame this whole chapter around three very important questions. Here they are. Question number one, he's going to ask how was Abraham saved?

Question number two, very important. You think it's not, but it is when was Abraham saved? Question number three is what were the elements of Abraham's saving faith?

Okay, all right, let's dive right in. Romans chapter four. What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, according to the flesh is found? Because if Abraham were justified by works, he's got something to boast about, but not before God.

No, not before God. For what does the scripture say? You notice the quotation marks because he is quoting Genesis 15 six. Genesis 15 six says Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness. So how was Abraham saved? Genesis 15 six tells us it was by faith. Abraham believed God's promise that he would bring salvation to the world through one of his sons and that was credited to Abraham as righteousness. When he believed that God would make of him a great nation like he had promised and from his descendants, one of them would come that would bring salvation to all the different nations of the world.

When he believed that it was credited to Abraham for righteousness. Verses four and five show us the inner logic of faith. Verse four, not of the one who works, pay is not credited as a gift. Pay is given as something that is owed. That is the premise behind every single job that you have. You perform a certain task and then you are paid for that task.

When the boss writes you that paycheck, you don't go up to him or her and say, wow, this is so generous. You were so awesome. Thank you for thinking of me.

You were so thoughtful. No, your pay is what you are owed for working. You do the work, you get the payment. That is how many people, Paul says, approach God. They do good things and they think therefore God will pay me. He will reward me with acceptance into heaven.

Most religion I've told you works off of this premise. I obey, I obey therefore I'm accepted. If I obey well enough, if I obey often enough, if I'm good enough, then God will reward me with acceptance. He gives me acceptance as a payment for my obedience. The problem with that, Paul says, is that when you do good works to earn salvation from God, well, they're not really motivated by a love for God.

If anything, they're motivated out of a love for yourself, right? I mean, that makes sense, doesn't it? Right? It's a dilemma you have when you're at the coffee shop and they got a little tip jar, the coffee shop tips welcome, thanks a latte or something like that. And you're about ready to put your tip in, but right when you get ready to do it, the barista turns around, right? You ever had this happen? And you're like, oh boy, if I put it in and they don't see it, I don't get credit for it.

Right? So you're like, what do I do here? Because especially if you've already dropped it in, you're like, well, I'll wait for them to turn around and then put another one in. That's a double tip. That's kind of excessive, but you know, if I, maybe I should reach in and pull it out.

You ever thought that I pull it out and wait till they turn around and drop it in and smile at them and say, you know, but then what if I, they turn around right when I'm reaching my hand in, it looks like I'm stealing and that's not going to work out well. It's just a real dilemma. Am I right? Or am I right?

Okay. But the point is in that moment, you're not really caring about being generous to the barista or the barrister. What you care about is you care about them thinking good about you. It's not really love for them and motivate you. It's love for yourself. And Paul says, when you're working and doing good works to earn acceptance by God, it's not really God you care about.

It is yourself. So the gospel, he says, works according to a different premise. And that premise is this verse five, but to the one who does not work, but instead believes on him, who declares the ungodly to be righteous. Well, that person's faith like Abraham's is going to be credited for righteousness.

Now, what does that phrase does not work me? I mean, it can't mean that Christians don't do good works, right? Because the whole new Testament is filled with stories of followers of Jesus doing good works. No, what it means is that you no longer do good works as a means of obtaining salvation. When it comes to establishing your rightness before God, instead of trying to work for that and experiencing that as a reward, instead of that, you believe on him who declares the ungodly to be unrighteous. In other words, you believe that God accomplished what God said he accomplished when he sent Jesus to die in your place. You believe that he was paying your sin debt in full.

When you believe that and you claim it as your own, his righteousness is credited to you. It is pictured in that Jewish father I've told you about who brings the lamb for sacrifice once a year to the Jewish temple, lays it on the altar. And as the priest cuts the throat of the lamb, the father lays his hand on the head of the lamb and confesses his family sins. What is happening is symbolically the guilt of that family sins is being transferred to the lamb and symbolically that lamb's innocence is being credited back to the family.

In the same way, Paul says, when you believe that Jesus did what he said he did when he died on the cross and you claim that as yours, credit for his life and death gets put into your account and credit for your sin gets put into his account. Thanks for listening to Summit Life with JD Greer. Before we continue, I want to remind you of a resource that's available to help you explore the incredible truth from the book of Romans in a whole new way. It's Pastor JD's latest book titled Essential Christianity. This book drills down to the heart of the gospel message and Paul's teaching in Romans 1 through 12. When you give $35 or more to this ministry today, you'll receive a copy of Essential Christianity and we'll also send you a companion discussion guide to help you apply what you're learning or perhaps more importantly, to have conversations with a friend who may be exploring their own relationship with God. To get your copy, call right now with your gift.

You can reach us at 866-335-5220 or visit Now let's get back to today's teaching from Pastor JD right here on Summit Life. That word credited is the most important word in Romans chapter 4. Romans chapter 4. In Greek, it is the word logizomai. It is a banking term. A banking term. It means something is put into your account.

Bankers in those days use that term. My son has a bank account with a hundred and about nine year old son has a bank account with 106 dollars in it. That's his savings account. Okay, if I were to find out that, you know, like next next week I was going to die or something and I wanted to transfer my assets to my son. So I go down to the bank and I'm like, hey, I want you to take all my checking, all my savings. I want you to take everything I own and I want you to put it into my son's account. That banker, that banker would take all my assets and would transfer it to my son's. He or she would logizomai his account with all of my assets and suddenly my son's bank account would go from 106 dollars to like 350.

Now just all in one moment, okay? All right, that is logizomai. It's a banking term. It means credit. Note here, by the way, that faith is the instrument that that gains that credit. Faith is not just believing in God. It's not just believing in Jesus in general, believing he's out there, having warm and fuzzy feelings toward him. Specifically, you are believing that he accomplished something for you that he said he accomplished for you, paying your sin debt, and then leaning your weight on that.

I've heard it called a trust transfer. You no longer depend on what you've done, your work, to get you to heaven. You start depending on what he's done. It's not that you stop working. It's that you stop trusting in that as your means of earning your way before God. I've compared it before to sitting down in a chair. You know, it's like when you have a chair, up until the point you sit in the chair, you are depending on your legs to hold you upright. But at the moment you choose to sit down, you transfer your trust off of your legs onto the chair. And now the weight of your body is sitting on the chair. It's not like your legs have stopped working.

It's not like they disappeared. It's just that you transferred your trust of what is going to keep you off the ground. You transferred it from your legs to your chair. In the same way, when you become a Christian, you transfer trust of what is going to get you acceptance for God. You transfer that off of your own goodness and you transfer it onto Jesus's finished work. When I ask people that infamous question, if you died tonight, right?

By the way, this is what I mean. When you get asked that question, that infamous question that Christians love to ask, if you died tonight and God were to say, why should I let you into heaven? What would your response be? If you understand what Paul is saying here, you won't answer with anything about you at all. You'll answer entirely because of what Jesus has done, because that's what you're trusting in. Now, I will tell you that when I ask people that question here, especially in the Bible belt, in the South, I usually hear one of three answers. I'm going to go ahead and just give them to you because I imagine some of you, if I asked you, you might say the same thing.

So let's just go ahead and just talk about it, right? I hear that they'll be like, well, why should God let me to heaven? Because I tried to be a good Christian. I tried my best. I was super sincere. Or they'll say, I believe in God and I try to do His will.

Right? Or they'll say, I believe in God. Or maybe believe in Jesus with all my heart.

Now, here's why all three of these answers, all three are wrong. They're all essentially salvation by works. Watch. I tried my best to be a good Christian. That's just pure tea, salvation by works. I'm hoping that in the scale, I did more good things and bad things, God going to let me into heaven because I was sincere. Letter B here is like a mixture of salvation by faith and works.

Right? Like I believe in God, but I also try to do His will and I'm hoping that's enough that He'll accept me. Letter C, watch, is salvation by faith as a work. This one looks correct to people, but what they're saying is because I believed in God, that kind of makes me a good person. God looks at me and is like, thank you for believing in me.

That really helped. And thank you for having warm feelings toward me. And because you believed in me, therefore I'm going to reward you with heaven. In every single one of those cases, you've got a person who is religious, but is not somebody who has done a trust transfer. You are not talking about somebody who no longer works for their salvation. The correct answer, the only answer to the question of why God should let you into heaven is because of what Jesus has done. Somebody asked Billy Graham right before he died. They said, Billy Graham, why do you think God is going to let you into heaven?

It was the last interview he ever gave before he died. And he said, and I quote, I won't be in heaven because I've preached to large crowds or because I've tried to live a good life. I will be in heaven for one reason. Many years ago, I put my faith, my confidence, I transferred my trust to Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to make our forgiveness possible and rose again from the dead to give us eternal life. Billy Graham has done a lot of good works. Billy Graham in many ways have lived what we would call a good life, but he is not trusting in those things to be his entry into heaven. He is trusting on the finished work of Christ. So the one who does not work, but instead believes on him, who justifies the ungodly, who declares the ungodly to be righteous, that person's faith is credited. It is as righteousness. Then Paul turns and he quotes King David in support of this.

Now this is very strategic also. Right behind Abraham would have been David, beloved King David. And he says, King David agreed with this too. Look at it. Just as David also speaks of the blessing of the person to whom God credits righteousness apart from works.

Right? Then he quotes from Psalm 32, one of David's psalms. Blessed are those whose lawless acts are forgiven and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the person whom the Lord will never charge with sin.

So by the way, that word charge there is the same word in Greek, logizumai, whom the Lord will never credit with sin. Paul's use of David here is not just strategic because David was a beloved figure to Jews. It's also strategic because David was like the pinnacle of the forgiven sinner in the Old Testament. David had not done a little small piddly sins. His varsity level sins is what David had done. Nathan the prophet comes in and confronts David. When David finally confesses, Nathan looks at David and says, God told me to tell you that you will not be charged with this sin. You will be forgiven. That's awesome.

We love it. Unless you're Uriah's mother. And then you're sitting in the courtroom and what do you say if Uriah was your son and David just had him murdered in cold blood and stole his wife. What do you say to that?

No, it's not that easy. David knew that. David knew that he had done something that was worthy of death. And he said, I won't be charged with death. I won't be logizumai with death because somebody else is going to be logizumai with death. Jesus is going to be logizumai with death. And because he's logizumai, because he's charged with death, I'm going to be credited with his righteousness. Paul says, well, just like with David, our sins, which also deserve death, they were also charged to Jesus.

They were logizumai to Jesus so that Jesus's life and resurrection could be logizumai, credited to us. So how was Abraham saved? He was saved by trusting God would keep his promise to bring salvation to the world the same way that you and I experienced salvation. And that is by trusting that God has brought salvation to the world. Question number two, when was Abraham saved? When exactly was Abraham saved? You think, well, this is just a detail.

Nope, it's very important. Let me show you. Paul says, when was it credited? When was Abraham saved? While he was circumcised or uncircumcised. Now, I don't want to get super deep into circumcision here.

Just for right now, let it represent basically, it symbolizes all of the law, all the Mosaic law. And so what Paul is saying is when was Abraham declared righteous? Was it when he, after he got circumcised, after he received the first part of the law, or was it when he was still uncircumcised?

Well, he was declared righteous in Genesis 15 six. Circumcision was not even introduced until Genesis 17. So Paul says, see, it was not while he was circumcised, it was while he was still uncircumcised. And this was to make him the father of all who believe but are not circumcised, who have never been under the Jewish law so that righteousness might be credited to them also.

You see, the logic here goes like this. If God declared Abraham to be righteous before he was circumcised, before there was a law, then the law, circumcision, cannot be essential to salvation since Abraham was declared righteous before he ever even heard about it. Thus, the law cannot be a means of salvation. The law was not given as a means of salvation. The law, Paul explains in those verses, was given for another reason.

It's what he's been saying now for three or four chapters in Romans. The law was not given to bring us salvation and make us closer to God. The law was given to reveal the holiness of God to us. It was to reveal to us how sinful we were so that we would go to God for his grace.

It was to show us God's glory so that after we've been saved, it would give us a pathway for understanding how to become like the God that we love. So how was Abraham saved? He was saved by faith. When was Abraham saved? He was saved before the law was introduced.

Question number three. Well, what were the elements of Abraham's saving faith? Let me, before I get into this, let me take a minute just to make sure you understand the story of Abraham because if not, you might be a little lost on what's going on here. The story of Abraham occurs in Genesis 12. Right before this in Genesis 11 is after the flood, the wickedness of man has come to a crescendo with the building of the Tower of Babel. The Tower of Babel is a gigantic tower that all of humankind built as kind of the symbol of their independence from God.

And it's a brazenly defiant act. And God says, okay, I'm going to scatter all the different people into different language groups. And he scattered them all around the globe. Then God chose one family, one person. That person was Abraham. He wouldn't call it Abraham yet. He chose one person, Abram, and said, I'm going to make of you a great nation and you're going to be my nation. And then from you is going to come a descendant who is going to bring salvation and blessing to all the world.

And all of the people are going to be blessed in you. The problem was when Abram got that promise, but he and his wife were in their seventies and they were childless and they're going to remain that way until they're in their late nineties. Still Paul says verse 18, Romans four, still Abraham believed, hoping against hope.

I love that phrase, hoping against hope because when you're 90 and you hadn't had kids yet, you give up hope. So that he became the father of many nations. Watch this, according to what had been spoken and what had been spoken, so will your descendants be.

That's just shorthand for your descendants are going to be numerous like the stars. And one of them is going to bring salvation to the world. He believed that promise. That was the object of his faith. That was pastor JD Greer teaching us about the anatomy of faith here on Summit Life. You know, one of the key themes from today's teaching was how faith, not religion, is what saves us.

JD, can you unpack that just a bit more for us? What Paul tries to show us in the book of Romans is that religion will not fix us for a couple of reasons. One, we can never pay off our sin debt to God. Number two, external conformity, forcing ourselves into right behaviors won't change our heart.

And that's where the problem is. He shows us how the gospel does what religion cannot do because the gospel is Jesus paying the debt for our sin so that we can be justified in God's sight. And then the gospel is also the power by the spirit that actually transforms us into the kind of people who want to obey God from the heart. I think along with these messages through Romans, I think essential Christianity will help you deepen your grasp of the gospel and enhance your abilities to share with others. So we would love to get a copy to you. Just reach out to us at We'd love to get you a copy of Pastor JD's latest book that he just mentioned called Essential Christianity. And like all of our premium resources, it's yours with your gift to the ministry. And in addition to the book, we'll also send you a companion discussion guide with questions to help you reflect on what you learn along the way. So give us a call at 866-335-5220. Or you can give online right now at I'm Molly Benovitch inviting you to join us tomorrow when we conclude our message on the anatomy of faith. See you Tuesday, same time, same place, right here on Summit Life with JD Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-22 10:22:55 / 2023-05-22 10:34:18 / 11

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